Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6 - John Philip Sousa

"Stars and Stripes Forever", the
National March.
Today in 1854 John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. His father played the trobone for the U.S. Marine Band. After young John attempted to run away to a circus, his father signed him up as an apprentice to the band.

So by the time he was 13, Sousa was proficient at the violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone. And he could sing as well.

At 26, Sousa became director of the Marine Band and served in this post for 12 years. Here he wrote the first of his 136 marches, including "Semper Fidelis," which became the official march of the Corps, and "The Washington Post March." In addition to those marches, he wrote a nearly a dozen light operas and as many waltzes, too; and he wrote three novels.
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John Philip Sousa.
His best known march is "The Stars and Stripes Forever", the official National March. Listen to it played by the Marine Corps Band here. He was known as the March King or The American March King.

Sousa was a hard worker, devoutly religious, known for his personal integrity. At the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Navy and served as  Lt. Commander. He used to say: "When you hear of Sousa retiring, you will hear of Sousa dead!" His words were prophetic, as he died suddenly of a heart attack following a rehearsal in 1932.

(Thanks to Garrison Keillor and the Writer's Almanac, on which this bio is partly based.)

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